Buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Winchmore Hill area of London (N21) are being warned that a local estate and letting agent Assetgrove Prime Sales & Lettings Ltd (trading as Assetgrove Prime) has been expelled from The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme owing a landlord £1,820.50.
A landlord made a complaint to The Property Ombudsman after claiming that the agent failed to pass on the last month's rent and failed to compensate him for a new cooker which was missing at the end of the tenancy.
The landlord was also dissatisfied that when he raised the issue with Assetgrove Prime, as the employee he had been dealing with stopped responding, the agent denied that the tenancy was anything to do with them and said it should be directed towards the employee who actually worked for another agency.
The absence of an inventory meant the issue with the cooker was difficult to prove, however, it was clear that the landlord was owed 25 days rent. Despite the agent protesting that an employee of another agency was sharing their office and therefore only given a temporary email address, Assetgrove Prime’s actions in allowing this led to a Tenancy Agreement being entered into between the landlord and the agent, and a sub-tenancy between the agent and sub-tenants. As such, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the liability for any issues arising as result of the tenancy lay with the Assetgrove Prime. The Ombudsman made an award of £1,820.50, which included the rent owed and £300 compensation.
Assetgrove Prime failed to pay the award and the Ombudsman referred the agent to the scheme’s independent Compliance Committee, which ruled the firm should be expelled from The Property Ombudsman scheme.
Assetgrove Prime is not currently registered with a redress scheme, which is a requirement of every sales and letting agent in order to trade legally*. Trading Standards have been informed of the expulsion. They also do no not appear to be a member of a Client Money Protection scheme**, also a legal requirement, and do not have any professional memberships, but do appear to still be registered with Zoopla.
Gerry Fitzjohn, Non-Executive Director and Chairman of TPO’s Finance Committee: “As a member of TPO, agents are obliged to comply with awards made by the Ombudsman, which Assetgrove Prime has failed to do. This is a warning to consumers as the company’s website http://assetgrove.co.uk still appears active, although this refers to different legal entity – Assetgrove Lettings Limited. It is not registered with either of the redress schemes and Trading standards have been informed. We would like to remind consumers to ensure they always use an agent which is a member of a redress scheme (The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme) and holds Client Money Protection**.”
*N.B. Every sales and lettings agent in England is required to register with a Government-approved redress scheme, which enables consumers to have their complaint reviewed independently in the event of a dispute arising that the consumer is unable to resolve with the agent directly.
An agreement between the two Government-approved redress schemes (The Property Ombudsman and The Property Redress Scheme, means Assetgrove Prime will not be able to register for any form of redress until the award is paid. Redress registration is required for the agents to trade legally.
**Full list of Client Money Protection schemes, is:
Money Shield, Client Money Protect, NALS Client Money Protection, Propertymark, RICS, UKALA Client Money Protection
For press information, please contact:
The Inhouse Way
Tel: 01276 804411
Helen Evison: 07920 516 577
Holly Addinall: 07979 537 334
NOTES TO EDITOR:
What is The Property Ombudsman?
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) scheme offers an independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who have been unable to resolve their disputes with a registered agent. The scheme was established in 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose, achieving a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and/or for aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered agent.
TPO is funded through membership subscriptions and case fees and is free to all consumers.
At 31 December 2018 over 15,897 sales offices and 14,746 letting offices were registered with TPO.
Whilst TPO charges registered agents an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Board which is chaired by a member of the House of Lords and with the majority of its members being independent from the industry.
The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered agent.
Awards made by the Ombudsman in 2018 were paid by agents to consumers in 97% of cases. In the few cases where awards remain unpaid, agents are referred to the TPO Compliance Committee, which has the power to expel agents from the scheme. Expelled agents are reported to the appropriate authorities who have the power to ban agents from carrying out agency business.
If TPO becomes aware that an agent under investigation has ceased trading, complainants are promptly informed and, where an award is made, are provided with the necessary documentation to make a claim against that company. TPO’s agreement with the Property Redress Scheme, means that not only will expelled agents not be able to register for any form of redress, but any new company set up by the same directors will not be accepted for redress membership, until the Ombudsman’s award is paid.
The Ombudsman's Terms of Reference, Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, case summaries, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered agents.
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk